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St Margaret's Church, Westminster

Volume 52: debated on Thursday 24 April 1913

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asked the hon. Member for the Doncaster Division, as representing the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, if he will state upon whose initiation, and upon what grounds, the Commissioners drew up a scheme on the 6th of March, 1913, seriously altering the relations between the subsidiary church of St. John's and the church of St. Margaret's, Westminster, which is the parochial church of the House of Commons; whether this scheme, overturning the relations which have existed under Statute since the year 1714 was submitted for His Majesty's approval without any opportunity being given to those who, during the vacancy in the incumbency of St. Margaret's, represented that parish and congregation; and what steps the Commissioners propose now to take to rescind this scheme, by which injury has been done to a church specially connected with this House, and to repair the effect of this irregularity in their administration?

The scheme of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners effects a release of the benefice of St. John the Evangelist, Westminster, from an annual payment of £17 8s. 11d., charged thereon under a Local Act of 1714, in favour of the Rector of St. Margaret, Westminster, as part of the emoluments of the latter benefice. The proposal was made to the Commissioners by the Rector of St. John's with the consent of the First Lord of the Treasury as exercising, on behalf of the Crown, the patronage of each of the two benefices. The Commissioners were satisfied that in the present circumstances of these benefices it was reasonable that the charge should be abolished. The consents necessary to the scheme were those of the patron and the bishop, and these were given; the approval of representatives of the parish or congregation of St. Margaret's was not required and the scheme was not submitted to them. There has been no irregularity in the proceedings of the Commissioners and they do not propose to take any steps to rescind the scheme, which has been ratified by Order of His Majesty in Council.

As the initiative was taken by one of the parties interested, does it not to a great extent lessen the value of that initiative and suggestion; further, is the hon. Member aware that the Bishop of London exercises no jurisdiction whatever over the parochial church of the House of Commons, namely, St. Margaret's, and that his Lordship can only exercise that power by bringing himself within the terms of the Act of Præmunire?

The Bishop of London has certainly been consulted in this matter. I do not see that the application being made by one of the parties invalidates the matter.

Is it not the case that the Bishop of London has no jurisdiction whatever over the rectory of St. Margaret's?

Are the rights of Members of this House to attend St. Margaret's interfered with in any way?